While the Internet has revolutionized communications, its conveniences and uses come at the price of new perils. Without any online defense, you leave yourself open to be a victim of fraud, theft and even property damage. Security and vigilance are vital in keeping yourself safe, and this responsibility isn't just on the individual; everyone is a potential target, including governments and private corporations.
Privacy and Confidentiality
Without security measures in place, private or confidential information or messages can be viewed, intercepted and even stolen. Depending on the intent of the intrusion, this can range from the innocuous, like market research, to the devastating, like identity theft or other fraud. Governments and companies with sensitive information are also at risk as their own information is often valuable, and they also maintain private information on individuals such as customers or employees.
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Identity theft is a prevalent issue in the information age, as people buy, sell and exchange information online. Without adequate security, online transactions can lead to fraudsters getting a hold of your credit card information, personal information and even Social Security number. With this information, they can make fraudulent charges and purchases, take out loans, apply for government benefits and wreak havoc with your private life. While you can generally get everything sorted out, it takes time, effort and in some cases expense to undo the damage of an identity thief.
Data theft is another issue, wherein sensitive or personal data like videos, documents and photos are stolen digitally. This information may then be resold or distributed for illicit purposes. Companies risk losing important testing data, confidential financial files, trade secrets, product blueprints and more, from data thieves. Governments are at risk of having sensitive materials stolen, including data regarding ongoing research projects, personal correspondence between individuals and lists detailing military placements, strategies and the names of agents abroad.
Maintaining solid computer security can also protect the computer itself from damage. Some hackers are more interested in disruption and causing damage than stealing information. Computer viruses, trojans and malicious software are all examples of disruptive issues facing many computer users, and these sometimes include data theft as well as rendering a computer inoperable. When focused on larger targets like government or corporate systems, these attacks can disrupt communications and services, leading to any number of secondary problems.
How to Protect Yourself
There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself and your computer online. Download or purchase an anti-virus program to protect your computer against viral threats and Trojans, in addition to a good anti-spyware or anti-malware program to protect your computer from tracking apps, spyware and other unsavory software. A firewall can also be a useful tool, as it can alert you to activity from programs you may not have been aware of. Most important, however, is that you exercise common sense online. Don't share personal information, don't click anything you don't trust and buy and sell only with reputable, secure businesses online.
- Internet Society: Internet Security Through Resilience and Stability
- Paul Barrs: The Importance of Internet Security
- First Monday: Internet Security - Who is Leaving the "Virtual Door" Open and Why?
- Symantec: Internet Security and Your Business - Knowing the Risks
- Cisco: Internet Security
- McAfee: The Important of Online and Offline PC Protection